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Catholicism

Pope Francis: Christmas festivities ‘a charade’ in a world filled with ‘war and hate’

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20 Nov 2015 at 08:51 ET

Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world which has chosen “war and hate”, Pope Francis said Thursday.

“Christmas is approaching: there will be lights, parties, Christmas trees and nativity scenes … it’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path,” he said in a sermon.

“There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” he said after the worst terror attack in French history, the bombing of a Russian airliner, a double suicide bombing in Lebanon, and a series of other deadly strikes.

“We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it,” the Argentine pontiff said, adding: “God weeps, Jesus weeps”.

The sermon threw a shadow over the start of the festive season at the Vatican, where a giant Christmas tree was unveiled.

The 25-metre (82-foot) high pine hails from former pope Benedict XVI’s homeland, the German state of Bavaria.

The tree, which will be decorated in time for the start of the Vatican’s Holy Year on December 8, will be festooned with ornaments made by children from cancer wards in hospitals across Italy.

This year’s nativity scene will be made up of 24 life-size figures, sculpted from wood and hand-painted.

In a nod to Pope Francis’s humble style, alongside the figures from the story of Jesus’s birth will be sculptures of ordinary people, including a man supporting an elderly person in need.


Open up my Heart and Cause my lips to Speak …

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Courtesy:TylerBear

“Bring the heaven and the stars down to work for me …”

It has been an interesting past few days. So much so, that I had to let my brain calm down in order to not speak the wrong words at the wrong time.

Suffice to say that … I know who I am in the grand scheme of things. And that I am powerless over people, namely, my friends, or men whom I call my friends. And after this weekend, I’m not really sure about that.

The time is coming that a decision is on the front page. One that I don’t really want nor need to make right now, unless circumstances change between now and then.

I am reading a book on Catherine of Sienna. A kind of hagiography. The man who read it before me, didn’t get a thing from the book, and all he did when he gave it to me was complain. That’s another story for farther down the page …

But I did come across this and it hit me right over the head.

“You know that a person who walks with a lamp at night doesn’t stumble. Souls who have God as their lamp cannot stumble either. They open the eye of their understanding and reason to see which road this gentle Master took. And once they have seen it, because of their will and desire to follow their Master, they run attentively and eagerly. They don’t stop to look back – at themselves, I mean.

They see themselves well enough where knowledge of their sins and failings is concerned, and admit of themselves that they are nothing. And at the same time, they recognize in themselves the immeasurable goodness of God, who has given them what ever being they have.”

Catherine goes on to say about an inner dialogue she had with god is this …

“You are she who is not, and I am he who is…”

Thomas Aquinas writes that “God is pure being – God simply Is. All the rest of creation takes its being from God but does not possess being in the same way God does. Everything and everyone else “is not” until God intervenes.”

I’m not sure why that passage impacted me so much when I first read it, for that very same reason, I had to note it.

I am not sure my fellows really know who I am, and why I am who I am and why I do the things I do. In a certain community, these men have twenty or thirty years on me age wise, and all they do is complain. And over and over, coming rote nowadays, is the part of the prayer that speaks of “Tolerance for those with different struggles!”

The Old Gay Men Group is totally working my Very Last Good Gay Nerve !!!

I have to remember this when I want to run my mouth and rant and rave, just like I really wanted to a couple of days ago. And who wants to read a missive of verbal diarrhea.

So that is a thing.

Our friend “Baby MAMA” texted us very early this morning, before the sun came up that she was in the hospital and that the baby was on the way. We have been texting New Foundland several times throughout the day waiting.

And at the meeting this evening a friend said “Let he be, it’s not like she is sitting on her bed with her phone in her hand waiting to text you she is getting ready to push a watermelon through a pea hole. Let her be for God’s sake.

We talked about the “Coming of faith.” And several of us said those very familiar words … We come, then we Come To, and finally we Come To Believe.

I’ve been worried about a certain issue that has been dogging me for the past ten years, Thank God for Gay Rights moving across the U.S. on the state and even on the Federal level. I had a question that needed answering, and I could not find an open office on the East coast, they all close at 3 p.m. WTF ???

So I called a number in Minot South Dakota and found a man who spoke truth to me and I could hear it in his voice, the tone and tenor … “Tell the Truth.”

That was the end of the conversation. I made a second call this morning and asked a related question, and the answer came easily, “no problem, it makes no difference in your qualifications.” That was a load off my back.

That brings us up to today.

The sun shone, it was really hot. Perfect traveling weather. We have been a very warm stretch. The A.C. is a real gift.

More to come, stay tuned …

 


Hundreds of thousands watch two popes become saints

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By Philip Pullella and James Mackenzie

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis proclaimed his predecessors John XXIII and John Paul II saints in front of more than half a million pilgrims on Sunday, hailing both as courageous men who withstood the tragedies of the 20th century.

Cheers and applause rang out across St Peter’s Square after the historic double papal canonization as many in the crowd fixed their gaze on huge tapestries of the two popes on the facade of the basilica behind Francis.

“We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II to be saints and we enrol them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church,” Francis said in his formal proclamation in Latin.

Relics of each man – a container of blood from John Paul II and skin from John XXIII – were placed near the altar.

The fact that the two being canonized are widely seen as representing contrasting faces of the Church has added to the significance of an event that Francis hopes will draw the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics closer together after a string of sex abuse and financial scandals.

The crowd stretched back along Via della Conciliazione, the broad, half-kilometer boulevard that starts at the Tiber River.

The Mass was also attended by former Pope Benedict, who last year became the first pontiff in six centuries to step down.

His attendance gave the ceremony a somewhat surreal atmosphere created by the presence of reigning pope, a retired pope and two dead popes buried in the basilica. Francis went over to greet Benedict twice during the service.

A TRAGIC CENTURY

“These were two men of courage … and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy,” Francis said in his address.

“They lived through the tragic events of that (20th) century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful,” he added.

John XXIII, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and called the modernizing Second Vatican Council, lived through both world wars.

John Paul II, the Pole who reigned for nearly 27 years, witnessed the devastation of his homeland in World War Two and is credited by many with helping end the Cold War and bring down communism.

While both men were widely revered, there has also been criticism that John Paul II, who died just nine years ago, has been canonized too quickly.

Groups representing victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests also say he did not do enough to root out a scandal that emerged towards the end of his pontificate and which has hung over the church ever since.

The controversy did nothing to put off the rivers of Catholic faithful.

“I think that they were two great people, each of them had their own particular character, so they deserve what is happening,” said Leonardo Ruino, who came from Argentina.

The Vatican said more than 500,000 people filled the basilica area while another 300,000 watched the event on large television screens throughout Rome.

The overwhelming majority in the crowd were Poles who had travelled from their home country and immigrant communities as far afield as Chicago and Sydney to watch their most famous native son become a saint.

“THE ENDS OF THE EARTH”

Hundreds of red and white Polish flags filled the square and the streets surrounding the Vatican, which were strewn with sleeping bags, backpacks and folding chairs.

“For years Pope John Paul II took the Church to the ends of the earth and today the ends of the earth have come back here,” said Father Tom Rosica, head of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic television network.

Families and other pilgrims had waited for more than 12 hours along the main street leading to the Vatican before police opened up the square at 5:30 a.m.

Some people said they had managed to sleep on their feet because the crowd was so thick.

About 850 cardinals and bishops celebrated the Mass with the pope and 700 priests were on hand to distribute communion to the huge crowd.

About 10,000 police and security personnel and special paramedic teams were deployed and large areas of Rome were closed to traffic.

John, an Italian often known as the “Good Pope” because of his friendly, open personality, died before the Second Vatican Council ended its work in 1965 but his initiative set off one of the greatest upheavals in Church teaching in modern times.

The Council ended the use of Latin at Mass, brought in the use of modern music and opened the way for challenges to Vatican authority, which alienated some traditionalists.

John Paul continued many of the reforms but tightened central control, condemned theological renegades and preached a stricter line on social issues such as sexual freedom.

A charismatic, dominant pope, he was criticized by some as a rigid conservative but the adoration he inspired was shown by the huge crowds whose chants of “santo subito!” (make him a saint at once!) at his funeral 2005 were answered with the fastest declaration of sainthood in modern history.

(Additional reporting by Antonio Denti; Editing by Andrew Roche and Andrew Heavens)


The Run Up to Lent … A Little Truth …

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I realized a few things in the past hour.

The first day of Spring falls on March 20th. The second thing is that Liturgical Season of Lent begins on Wednesday March 5th. With the imposition of ashes in Catholic Tradition.

I sent a note off to a friend just now, admitting some truths that have risen on my dashboard.

Winter has not been kind to all of us. And some of my fellows have fallen into the “poor me” trap and the “oh, will it please end” trap and the “constantly complaining” trap.

And If I am honest with  myself, I have not been very charitable. And I have certainly not been very patient. And I have let my anger pour out of my mouth before engaging my brain or my heart. Compassion has gone by the wayside opting for shock and awe…

Not a very Christian ideal by any stretch.

With Lent, we get 40 days to reflect on our lives, not that we shouldn’t reflect every day of our lives, but we get the opportunity to engage with the passion of Jesus and the run towards Easter.

Thankfully Easter candy is available right now in most stores.

That is neither here nor there.

I have been in a certain penitent mode as of late. Keeping my head down and not speaking at certain points. For it is sometimes better not to say something, lest I stick my foot in my mouth, all the way up to my thigh.

It is the end of the month. And that never bodes well, when there are raw issues on the table for conscious minds of God to deal with. And I must take my ego out of the equation and let God take the wheel.

Spending a good portion of my time in rooms day after day is tasking. Living in community with the people you love and sometimes hate in the same breath is consuming. I don’t know what that says about me, but being in such close contact with my fellows day in and day out has become a chore. Not a joy.

It could be Winter, it could be age. It could be me. It could be them.

It could be that we are all feeling a bit cabin fever being shut in day and night from the cold and the only time we get out is for a meeting and then all hell breaks loose because people do not have any other place to vent their shit then in a meeting in front of each other.

Here is where tolerance and patience and charity come to bear.

I’ve not been practicing very well. And that is my fault. I have not been mindful of my brethren. I have not been mindful of myself.

Which means I need to step up my prayers. For them and for me.

Just because you have time, does not mean you are necessarily sober.

I’ve not been very sober. It seems. I will rectify this …

More to come, stay tuned …


Page 3 of 365 … Our Father

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Courtesy:TylerBear

It is day Three of Three Hundred and Sixty Five.

It was another bitter day in the neighborhood. We are sitting at (-23c / -34c) tonight. But even the cold did not dissuade folks from traveling to the meeting tonight.

It was a quiet day today. The end of the week doesn’t really mean anything except that it is Friday and another week has passed. It seems that I don’t have all the information I need to write fully, meaning, I wrote something the other night and within minutes of me posting that set of words, hubby gave me some information that I was not privy to just a few hours prior.

Hopefully this new information won’t harm our upwards battle to become financially free and that money won’t be “that much” of a worry like it had been in 2013.

Tonight, it looks like, according to Environment Canada, our last night of bone chilling cold. Things warm up, if they can warm up in Winter, warmer than it has been as of late. Everyone around from West to East, and all points North and South are in the grip of winter blizzards and snow, and here in the valley, we seem to be coasting through without any real accumulations.

I was prepared to leave early and so I did. Both transits were quick and easy. And I arrived to find two of my favorite people setting up the meeting. It seems that changes have been voted on that I did not participate in at the last business meeting.

We moved the space in the hall again.

There are three dedicated spaces to meet. In the back of the hall are tables and chairs we used to use when the meeting was smaller, the meeting grew, and we outgrew that room, and we moved to the next larger space, moving tables and chairs into it to populate. And since, the meeting has tripled in size over the last ten months.

The thinking is, that if more than forty people show up, the meeting will split in two and we will run two meetings instead of one, to give everybody a chance to share at the space.

Because when you seat more than forty people, an hour isn’t enough time to get everybody in. So if you split up the group, there is more opportunity to get in under the wire.

That was a lot of words …

The A.B.S.I. reading dealt with the “sect” issue as in the preamble, which we read at the beginning of every meeting.

… A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics. organization or institution, does not wish to engage in any controversy neither endorses or opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

I neither cared for the reading tonight, as did others in the room. I took it in another direction by relating a sober story. The reading speaks of religion, as in A.A. had reunited people with their respective religions…

At our meeting, God is a term that is tossed from one side to another and elicits a number of reactions, from revulsion, anger, to respect and adoration. Some of our folks cannot stomach the word but they are sober despite that. The knee jerk reaction that some sober people, long term or short term have to an institutional God of maybe their family or upbringing is really an issue.

Everybody has their gripe with God. And everybody has baggage that they bring to the table, and for most part, that baggage has to do with God, but in the book Bill conquers that problem with …

“God of our understanding.”

So God got tossed all over the place tonight. And a friend spoke very resolutely, “I am so sick of all this God shit …” Because it seems that inevitably, God comes up more than we like to admit. because A.B.S.I. deals with assorted writings of ALL the literature on any given day.

And it becomes tiresome after while.

With all that said, I wanted to share this story with you from someone I heard speak tonight. He is a friend, he’s got some time, and he had a “moment” over the past few days.

Where religion rises in discussion, prayer usually follows. And our guy mentioned the Our Father. A prayer that has been added to the litany of prayers alcoholics recite at meetings. In the beginning, that prayer was not part of the movement. However Christian the slant of the program was. One of Bill’s counselors was a Catholic priest.

Our guy used to balk every time he heard the Our Father, because of the old baggage that was associated with that prayer, coming from his family of origin and the Catholic faith he was raised in and then became estranged for a number of reasons. Life happened. And sometimes church does not concur with certain life situations, thereby alienating people by the droves.

The other night our guy was in company of others in the program and he overheard someone reciting the prayer with a sponsee on the phone, and instead of recoiling as he once did, he “sank into the words.”

Our Father, Who art in HeavenHallowed be thy name
thy kingdom come, thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive those who trespass against us

And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil,
For thine is the Kingdom
and the Power and the Glory
forever and ever Amen…

Something that every alcoholic needs when he/she enters a room and a community of people is HOPE. And for a long time, our guy could not see hope, better yet, find it as it stood in front of him. And for some reason, as he sat there listening to this recitation, he heard the word HOPE rise and enter his consciousness and his heart.

The prayer is a simple prayer that has been recited for eons. And that was the take away from tonight’s discussion. In the rooms, the one thing we need to recover from a disease that is mental, physical and spiritual, the answer is HOPE. We should endeavor every day to share hope with every person who crosses our doorways.

Listening to this story being related was a gift.

It was a tough New Years again. I worried for our newbies, one in particular, who seemed so together, but when push came to shove he drank again, but he was present and sober tonight. He came back. And he was courageous. We are all so proud of him.

It is the New Year, no better time than the present to try, tray again …

Alcoholism knows no barrier. No class, No creed, No religion, No orientation – it is an equal opportunity disease. And the way we do it is one day at a time, together, unified by a primary purpose, to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …


Papal Plea for Peace …

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VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis made an impassioned New Year’s peace address on Wednesday, saying the heart of humanity seemed to have gone astray and too many people were still indifferent to war, violence and injustice.

The pontiff, who took his papal name from St Francis of Assisi, the saint most associated with peace, urged the world to listen to the “cry for peace” from suffering peoples.

“What on earth is happening in the hearts of men? What on earth is happening in the heart of humanity?” he said to tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square on the day the Roman Catholic Church celebrates its World Day of Peace.

“It’s time to stop!” he said, departing from his prepared text.

“Everyone must be committed to building a society that is truly just and caring,” he told the crowd on Wednesday, acknowledging the many peace banners and blue balloons held aloft.

In a message for the World Day of Peace sent to world leaders last month, Francis said that huge salaries and bonuses were symptoms of an economy based on greed and inequality

In that letter, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina again urged nations to narrow the gap between rich and poor, more and more of whom were getting only “crumbs”.


Twas the Night Before Christmas

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis lauded Jesus’ humble beginning as a poor and vulnerable baby as he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Mass as pontiff Tuesday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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Francis has dedicated much of his nine-month-old papacy to drawing attention to the plight of the poor, of children, and other vulnerable members of society.

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The bells of St. Peter’s rang as Francis, who turned 77 a week ago, walked briskly up the main aisle of the basilica for the ceremony, which began Tuesday 2 1/2 hours before midnight.
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Keeping with the theme of humility he has set for his new papacy, Francis carried the statue instead of an aide, and kissed a knee of the figure of the newly born Jesus.The occasional wail of babies in the basilica contrasted at times with the sweet voices of the choir.
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The Argentine-born pope has also encouraged his flock to be a joyful church, and he called Jesus’ “the light who brightens the darkness.”
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In the world’s history and our own personal history, Francis said, “there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. ” He added “if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us.”

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At the Vatican during the homily, Francis quoted the Apostle John, saying “‘whoever hates his brother is in the darkness”‘ and “‘does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”‘

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Wow, Pope Francis really knows how to hit it hard. I so needed to read this passage reported from his first Christmas Eve Mass.

“whoever hates his brother is in the darkness… Because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

So true So true…

It is the Holiday before the Holiday. And as usual, traveling in the night was problematic. There were more buses going East, than buses going West. So on the way out we waited and waited …

We sat a humble group of folks, who came out of respect for the meeting and also, just for the chance to spend time with each other, before we all wandered off to fulfill family obligations this Christmas Eve.

The chair double dipped tonight, on a topic that, for many, is on the front of many brains during these days, Anger and Resentment.

“Anger is the dubious luxury of normal men, but for us alcoholics it is poison.”

I have been a bit angry and resentful.

The one thing I pray for every year, has not come to pass for me, again this year. And they say that if you pray for something, you must take the next action, thereby giving God an IN to help along that which you pray for.

I opened the holidays with a great effort, out of kindness and love. I took great pains to act in kindness, and once again, it was ignored.

Fuck me …

With all that is going on in the world, the lack of respect of each other from certain celebrity and certain family and politicians, is unnerving and upsetting.

And this week I reached a tipping point.

I culled my twitter account, now only including a handful of folks I want to follow. It bothers me to high heaven, the lengths some will go to denigrate and disrespect other human beings just because we are gay.

I am sick to death of politics.

I am sick of reading, watching, and focusing on people who do nothing but drink, get drunk, and fall down. So I have culled all those folks off my social media platforms. Maybe I am getting old in sobriety, but I just can’t stomach folks who drink alcoholically. Over and Over and Over … And think it is good video to watch on a daily basis.

The same went for Facebook. The only reason I keep it open is to stay in touch with friends here and there. I have culled all that shit that has gone too far and makes we want to puke.

We are Here, We are Queer, Get Used to It.

For Fuck sake …

God damn the celebrity with vile and unacceptable word of condemnation. And fuck the politicians who support them, and the media who give them time on their front pages and on news casts.

God Damn them all to hell.

It’s Christmas for Fuck Sake. Can’t we all get along for one day?

No, that would be too fucking difficult.

Thank the Baby Jesus I live up here, above the Northern Border.

I don’t give a shit about U.S. politics, celebrity with foul mouths, and all those people who rent them free space, because of the First Amendment.

Bullshit … Take them fuckers off the air for good.

Read your God Damned Bibles and try for some compassion and love.

And Jesus Wept !!!

It was good to see my friends. It is the one space on a regular basis that I get to spend time with people I care about and who care about me.

Tomorrow is Christmas. We shall cook and serve others.

I was promised a good story to read after presents tomorrow, so YAY for that. Thanks to a good friend.

I hope you all have a blessed Christmas filled with Light, Joy and Love.

More to come, stay tuned …


Does the Holy Father really mean “Every man and woman?”

Pope Francis in a selfie photo

“The love of God is not generic. God looks with love upon every man and woman, calling them by name.”

Pope Francis tweeted this today. And it made all kinds of news.

Pope Francis is a Holy Man, and he has said plenty already that has been noticed, and been dissected …

After reading his biography by Paul Vallely, I wonder …

On a flight he was quoted saying “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?”

Vallely writes,”he [Pope Francis] has opposed same sex marriage and gay adoption but spoken out strongly in favour of civil unions and equal rights for homosexuals.”

Afterword, pg. 197.

If you read about Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, from the man he was in Argentina, and his evolution into the man he is today, as Pope, there is definite evolution. And it seems that he is hitting all the right notes, and he also seems to be well informed of just how he is being perceived in the world at large.

He has recently been branded as a Marxist by the Christian Conservative Right for his views on Capitalism and the Poor.

To understand his stance on the poor one must read about his work against Liberation Theology as a Jesuit leader, and his redirect years later to a total embracing of the poor and their plight and of Liberation Theology and its focus on the poor. His work in the slums of Argentina became revelatory, and how he sees the world and the people close to him.

I just hope that when the Pope uses this sweeping language of “all inclusive” that he means all and not just some.

Pope Francis wants a Poor Church for the Poor. And he has said that he wants the church [read:Rome] to go OUT to the people, instead of waiting for them to come to the church [read: Rome].

His words seem heartfelt. I just hope this transformation into Pope is branching across every walk of life. For if he is genuine, this breath of fresh air is just what the Church needs. And Francis is the man to do it.

Let us pray for the Holy Father.


Sunday Sundries … The Death of my Big Book

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“Humility is a much-misunderstood quality in the contemporary world, where it is a quality in short supply. It is not, as is often assumed, some kind of synonym for shyness, reticence, bashfulness or lack of ambition; humility is not a character trait with which some are born, rather it is the orphaned virtue which our age has publicly forgotten how to embrace…”

“…[prayer] this is where dialogue, listening, and transformation occur. Looking at God, but above all sensing that we are being watched by Him. This happens, in my case, when I recite the rosary or the Psalms or when I joyfully celebrate the Eucharist. But the moment I most savour the religious experience is when I am before the tabernacle. Sometimes I allow myself to fall asleep while sitting there and just let Him look at me. I have the sense of being in someone else’s hands, as though God were taking me by hand.”

Pope Francis … Untying the Knots.

We return to regular time this Sunday night. The weather is markedly cooler as night falls. I set out early for the church and walked through the mall, and more change has occurred on the ground floor. There are walls up marking off more floor space, It all seems to coalesce around the main staircase/escalator casing.

Not sure what they are doing, but great change is happening on the store front property of space. And we are mid-way into October, so they must get whatever they are doing finished by the late fall reveal of the Target space.

Last Thursday night, while I was cleaning the coffee pot, I had set the urn on the counter next to the sink, as I took apart the innards to clean. My back pack and my hoodie were also on the counter next to it. And somehow my bag must have dropped onto the spout, pushing down the plunger and releasing hot coffee all over the counter and the floor. My back pack was soaked with coffee as well as everything that was in my bag. My toques, were all wet and stained, and my Big Book, that I have used for the last 12 years was also soaked.

I walked home with wet clothes and a sticky wet bag. I hand washed my toques in the sink and set them out to dry, as well as my bag. Most of the book pages are coffee stained. I brought the book to the meeting tonight and leafed through it and it was ruined.

We had a couple new books in the inventory, so after the meeting I decided to just buy a new Big Book and retire my poor warrior book. Some of my friends said that I should continue using the book, even though it is sunk in coffee stains. I’d rather have a new book instead.

We completed the story … “The Vicious Cycle.”

“Every time I blacked out, and that was every time I drank, there was always that gnawing fear, “What did I do this time?”

That was me at the end of my drinking. I at least had someone who could partially tell me what happened the night before, even if he was pumped up on his drugs, usually that friend knew where I was and what happened. Eventually, the not knowing the how, where and when at the end, scared me into the last drink.

We sat a small group and we ended earlier than usual. All in all it was a good night.

*** *** *** ***

I am almost finished with the read of “Francis, Untying the Knots.”

And I am encouraged by the story of who Jorge Mario Bergoglio is. He lived a very complicated life in Argentina. He is a member of the Jesuit order. And now he is a Jesuit Pope.

Pope Francis survived a life of difficulty and the transformation that came around for him throughout his life from the man he was prior to his “spiritual awakening” from the man he grew up as – into – the man he is today as Pope, is quite remarkable.

Suffice to say that I was moved in the telling of the story and learning about him through this text is very helpful in my practice of Catholicism. The quotes above are just a blink into his thinking. There is so much more to say, but that would mean transcribing a good portion of the read here.

Pope Francis has a storied history leading up to his election in the last conclave. And if what I have read is a sign, the church has so much more to look forward to and the world will learn just what Pope Francis will do to reform the church and open it to the world and ALL her people.

People, are very important to Francis. The poor especially. He says that we must go out to the people (meaning the church), We cannot wait for them to come to us. And we must respect the traditions, and religious practices of the poor, there is so much religiosity and practice within the smaller communities of the poor and of many nations. And we must embrace these practices and the people.

The poor are the most important people on the earth. And in the coming months and years, we will see Francis teach us all how we can walk among, live among and minister to the poorest of the poor.

Where Mother Teresa ministered to the poorest of the poor in India, Jorge Mario Bergoglio tended the poorest of the poor in his native Argentina.

There is where he gets his strength and faith. Not from the Top Down mentality of the Church, but from the Bottom Up mentality of the people.

His church will go out and gather the masses. And if this simple story of what moves Pope Francis forward, the future is going to be very exciting for the worlds religious and her people.

It has been a good weekend.

More to come, stay tuned …


Could’ve had the farm …

farm-view-from-hill jerkmag wordpresscom

Courtesy: Jerkmag.wordpress.com

A friend grew up on a farm, long ago. Living, farming and planting like a real farmer, but we are not made farmers, for some, we are born farmers. With a temperament to match.

So the story goes, a young man worked a plot of land, which had to be planted in a certain time frame, for harvesting reasons, it all had to go smoothly. And when does anything go real smoothly??? Anyways, after breakdowns and farm related issues, the field got planted. And the waiting started, and prayers for rain …

well, it rained,

And rained,

And rained,

AND RAINED !!!!

That hard fought planted farm was flooded and all the seed was lost.

Now, how do you think the son reacted?

He went into a rage at the loss of all that work.

The farmer on the other hand, replied … “Well, tomorrow is another day !”

Some of us are farmers and others are clearly not …

End of story.

The day was warm, and I was out uber early because one of my readers wanted to talk about the blog, so I got there earlier than I ever have gotten to the meeting. The church was open and people were streaming in and out, and I noted that parking tonight was gonna be tight.

I made all my connections quickly, no waiting on either trip.

The more I invest in this Friday meeting the more I love the people in it. It is just a super way to end the week. With good, honest and loving folks around a table who enlighten each other as the reading is shared.

It is one thing to read from the book ourselves. And then process what we just read. On the other hand, when a book is read “in company”

You not only get what’s in your head, but what everybody else thinks or feels about a specific reading for the night.

I’m seriously pondering taking my cake at the Friday Meeting in December. It is just the “right” space.

As usual we read from As Bill Sees It and “Worshipers All.”

“We found that we had indeed been worshipers. What a state of mental goose flesh that used to bring on! Had we not variously worshiped people, sentiment, things, money and ourselves…?

… It was impossible to say we had no capacity for faith, love, or worship. In one form or another, we had been living by faith and little else.”

Our folks are having hard times. And the drink has been closer for some in recent days as it was when they were actively drinking. But our men and women are sober tonight. But for the Grace of God.

Where does your mind go when you read or hear the word Worship?

Society round the world lives on the worship of celebrity, gossip and hardships. You can’t go a day without seeing something on the wire about a celebrity this, or celebrity that, these ones are divorcing, and that one has an addiction, and this celebrity is DEAD !

I share stories here about people, real people, and some are celebrities, and some are Royals, but I try to stay away from gossip and negativity. The two topics you should stay away from in conversation … Religion and Politics.

I can’t say I follow those words.

My Higher Power, whom I chose to call GOD, is still sending messages. it seems they are all pointed in the same direction beckoning me to a location that I have been avoiding for a while.

A few days ago it was the Tabernacle the got my attention.

Tonight, it was Worship.

From your first click here, we are in worship mode.

Pope Francis has made it much easier to see myself back in a Catholic Church.

And why don’t we start there.

I spent 1986-1987 in a Catholic Seminary. A year that changed my life in many ways. I learned to pray, I learned about worship, I learned about others.

And their secrets …

At the end of that year, I was not asked to return for a second, I felt God had dropped me. But that wasn’t the end of God. But it did bring on the demon of alcoholism in a very bad way.

I gained employment at a Travel Agency owned by a friends mother. It was a really good job. Making a lot of money, and I ended up as manager. There was a catch. We served alcohol to clients who came to visit. (In those days you had clients who traveled and came to consult, get advice and tickets).

None of this point and click internet travel.

While there my boss, the man who was the consummate man took me on a whirl wind trip to Europe. Something every kid would kill to do, on free passes from Pan Am Airlines.

I was not sober the whole voyage. I was mostly drunk. And it was not pretty. I made a true ass of myself in public and turned pleasant day trips into the realm of hell, because I could not hold my alcohol. (AT ALL!!!)

The one stop I was sober, But for the Grace of God was ROME.

When we speak of worship, you think / I think, churches.

Well, I hit the mother lode in Rome. That day we toured the Colosseum and the city, and finally we walked into St. Peter’s Square. It is immense. The Vatican is an immense building. I have a solitary picture in my breviary of the Pieta.   The statue carved my Michelangelo Buonarroti.

We toured the catacombs and the many Popes buried there. And we climbed the single staircase that brought us to the Coppola of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I stood there looking down on the Papal Gardens.

I don’t know if you can do that portion of the tour in today’s day and age.

Back in the Vatican, I attended mass in the church. It was grandiose.

I had been to, and worshiped in, the seat of the Catholic Church.

It was the most sober I was on that two week journey.

Throughout my life, I have worshiped. I have toms of memories of holidays in church, and Sunday after Sunday masses. There is something to be said about gay men and the church. My mentor and best friend, now priest in the Anglican Church wrote several books on saints and devotions from a gay perspective.

You can see here, my devotions.

During my university time, studying world religions, I had the opportunity to visit all the major religious observances, from Shul in the McGill Ghetto, to Friday Prayers at the University Prayer space, to mass on Sundays at the Concordia Chapel on the West End.

Montreal is the home to many churches, religious orders, and religious people, and saints. On the mountain sits St. Joseph’s Oratory, in Old Montreal we have Notre Dame Cathedral, and downtown we have St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Take your pick, it would take you years to visit every church on the island of Montreal.

As a young man, a boy really, I worshiped the ground that my grandmother(s) walked on. Saintly women who gave me all they had, in the little time I had before they were taken from me by catastrophic strokes and by a father who was jealous that they were keeping alive a little boy he wanted to see dead.

Little by slowly, all that I knew was removed from my life by my father who alienated every family member from my life because of his alcoholism and jealousy.

All I have is their memories. I even Googled old homes in the places where they lived and found that even the houses are no longer standing. Sad, very sad.

You never know when God is going to pull your card and life is over.

It wasn’t until my mortality stood before me in stark relief that I began to pray.

But all those prayers said for me as a child did not go to waste.

There are a reason I lived. Maybe it was because I got sober, once! And maybe it was because Todd took me in and saved my life, and maybe it was just God.

A few years after I was diagnosed I was in mass at my old home parish in Miami. And that Sunday, a young priest came in the processional. But he wasn’t walking. He was on crutches. He said mass, and I swore that day that I would never complain about my life ever again.

I had to meet this man. And so I did. He became my Spiritual Adviser. And he gave me a couple of Books that I still read today.

No one to call me home by Rev. James J. Close (and)

I heard the Owl call my Name by Margaret Craven

When I need a kick of humility and sacredness I always turn to I heard the Owl Call my name. It is one of my favorite books in my collection.

Fr. Jeff, once told me that I needed worship. That God needed me in Church. And that the people of the community wanted to pray with me. So began a weekly schedule of morning masses, followed by spiritual direction and private prayer.

For the sick and dying, many would never darken the doors of a church because of their infirmity (read: AIDS). The local church had other thoughts about the dying than did Rome of that time.

Yet, to this day I venerate John Paul II – the man, the mystic and Pope. Who will be canonized next April. As well as Mother Teresa and Brother Andre and Mere D’Youville. Not to mention Pope Francis. That man who is on tap to change the face of the church. And much welcomed as well.

I don’t seem to have those issues that pop up in early sobriety for my friends. I was on a totally different page tonight. I knew what I wanted to say, but failed to get them all out, as I was the last to share tonight.

Drunk Worship – Addition late night…

Coming off my slip, I had put down the drugs and moved 1000 miles away from them, never to see them ever again. And I had sober stints during this period, from July 2000 through Sept 11 2001. But after 9-11, we drank and drank and drank. To drown ourselves, to remember, to raise money so forth and so on.

I was by now a binge drinker. I believed or was deluded by youth. I was growing up and getting older, and that was a challenge. I went to “Salvation” every Saturday night, where South Beach Gods went to drink, party, drug and dance.

We’d beach it all week, and what didn’t get tanned would be covered by a turn in a tanning bed in preparation for Saturday night. I was a little slimmer, and not so chunky as I am today.

I would find the smallest t shirt to wear with the tightest jeans. And we would visit the temple and dance. The music would start at midnight, and by 1 a.m. people were well toasted. I worshiped the music, the men and the bottle.

It was at 1 a.m. that they would blast liquid nitrogen to cool the crowd and all the shirts would come off … Oh God it was flesh heaven !

I was begging God to make me young and pretty, pretty enough to become part of a community that I was clearly outside of. And the more I drank, the further I got away from that goal of young and pretty.

The choice of growing up or dying in delusion were very real for me. And I had to make a choice, and sobriety helped a great deal. I could walk away from the bar, knowing there was the rest of my life ahead of me.

In the end I don’t know who took me from the room, who poured me into a taxi and how I got into my building without assistance. I had come to the end of my drinking. The worship of the bottle ended. pure and simple, and by that time I was ready for a return to the rooms, because I had been praying for it …

The rest is history.

Now a days, I’m having this private conversation with God among the people. But it takes all those people to speak in God’s name. You never know when you will hear it and if you aren’t paying attention, you might miss something important.

At the end of the meeting one of our Matriarchs took her Nine Year Chip…

WOO HOO !!! we are very proud of her.

It was a good night.

More to come, stay tuned …


Tap Tap Tap …

francis

“The way you make people feel says a lot about you.” Jordan Bach

Add another stellar day to the calendar. At the sun’s zenith this afternoon, it was quite steamy out. And the sweaty, dirty, humpy roofer men were up on a second roof just cranking out another new roof.

Several of these men took matters into their own hands as I watched them cut the sleeves off their shirts because it was so steamy up there, out in the sun.

They have another day’s work ahead of them, but the roof is covered and they still have a layer of roofing to put down.

It was a glorious day. I ran some errands, did some supermarket safari this morning after waking in the middle of a very strange dream.

I was on a sinking ship and then found myself in a foreign place, but at the end of the dream, I met up with someone who had been looking for me and knew my name and where I came from … The rest of the dream is gone and I woke up before I could figure out just what was going on.

That’s what usually happens in these technicolor dreams that take place at the very end of a sleep cycle.

I almost went back to bed to see if I could reconnect with the dream and let it play itself out, but that never happens either. Once a dream ends, it is impossible to reconnect to it, later …

I’ve not been able to work that one out.

So I got up – dressed – went to the store – got my laundry money and came home and proceeded to do laundry for the week since we were on our last pairs of underwear in the dresser.

You know its time to do laundry when you run out of clean underwear…

I departed early because I had stops to make on the way and I arrived at the church early and cranked out set up – I had brought a book with me but I was satisfied with listening to music on my phone.

I can’t get enough of Fleetwood Mac.

We sat a full compliment. One of our elder statesmen was in the chair. And he chose to read from Daily Reflections and The Spiritual Angle.

There was a healthy discussion of all things spiritual. From quoting the Big Book and hearing the sainted words of sponsors past, and what each of us has learned about the spiritual path, that is recovery.

One friend has returned to church looking for God, and in that quest to find God, he has a lot of questions. Then he said this … “I’ve never had a spiritual experience of the extraordinary kind, but the educational variety”

And I am half waiting for God to drop out of heaven and tap me on the shoulder and say “Hey, here I am, I wasn’t lost, you were…”

Another member said that if we only took the time to get quiet, and listen for that still small voice, we would make room for God to make His presence known to us.

Tap, Tap, Tap … “This is God, Here I am. I’ve been sitting her waiting for you to find me. All you have to do is look within and notice the breath in your lungs and the life you have – and there I am.”

I’ve lived a long life to this date. And there are many occasions I could tell you about where I saw or felt God’s presence.

The most important spiritual experience, well two of them in fact that happened when I was in seminary and just after I left was when David came to me after he had died.

The first time was the night of his wake – I was there. I returned to the school and went into the chapel to pray. I was alone, and along the back wall of the chapel were confessionals. I heard a door open and footsteps that moved from the back wall to the altar in front of me. The sacrament candle exploded and illuminated the high mural on the back wall above me.

And there was David, standing in front of me wearing my favorite shirt, the one he appeared to me in twice. And he said not to be sad, that he was free.

I have a Miraculous Mary medallion that his mother gave me when he died. I wear it still, to this day. I never leave the house without it.

The second time David appeared was in San Francisco. I had gone on a trip to San Francisco with colleagues. I went on a Mission District tour of an old church. In the graveyard was a life like statue of St. Anthony, our patron saint.

I heard a voice that bade me to follow. So I did. i walked into the church and up to the lectern and a voice said to me “look up …” I looked up and there was David standing on the balcony above the congregation seating.

God exists. And He does great things for us.

When I got sober the first time, God made manifest in the guise of Todd, who became my greatest champion. When I was sick, he took care of me, when I cried, He held me, when I was lost, he found me. And in my worst times, he lifted me up, unlike any other man, IN MY LIFE !!!

I did not die, But I lived.

There is a God.

Over the past almost twelve years, I’ve attended hundreds of meetings in the same space since I got sober. That’s many meetings. That’s hundred of people that have come and gone from those rooms.

If you want to see God – go to a meeting. Participate in someone else’s life. Watch them, over time, get clean and sober. 

See the life return, see the light rise in their eyes, and watch THEM find a God of their own understanding, trust me, you WILL see God.

You never know when something you say, may bring God closer to someone than He’s ever been.

I know that this spiritual practice we engage in takes time, and like all things, takes practice, prayer, and patience. I know that after all these years, my spiritual practice has given me words that are not mine at times.

During my days, a multitude of situations may arise. People come into my life right at the right moment, or vice versa, I come into their lives at the right time, because I get to share words with them. I find I have words in my heart that appear when needed and are useful.

Sometimes a kind word comes, a teaching, a lesson from experience, that I get to pass on to someone who might need it. And that has happened in the past few days. On a number of occasions.

When do you pray ???

It depends. It depends on the moment, and what is in front of me. I have friends all over the world by association and in person. Those people I know personally, and those I follow as part of a specific community.

Numerous times a day, someone writes … “Please pray for this or that…”

And momentarily, I stop and I say a prayer. I send light in a specific direction to a particular person. And in the moment I connect with the God of my understanding and WE participate in the life of another, if only for a moment.

Then, at the end of my night, when I sit here and close my day, I recall all those people from the day, and I mention them to God once more, as I give them over for the night into the hands of God.

I’ve learned how to do this over time.

I also realized today after hearing someone mention “church” at the meeting tonight, that he was sitting in Phillips Square … Which is a small square downtown with a statue and several street shops, where people congregate, and across the street from there is Christ Church Cathedral.

And this man walked across the square and went into the church, where he sat down, and eventually knelt to pray. And in that moment, he sat with God.

I realized that yes I go to the Cathedral for services on the odd occasion.

But I miss the sacrament.

I miss the tabernacle and the presence of the Body of Christ in the church.

There are hundreds of churches in this city. Most of them tourist traps. I used to travel to Old Montreal to Notre Dame Cathedral Church/Sacre Coeur to pray before the blessed sacrament.  I haven’t done that in a long long time.

But that message made itself perfectly clear to me as I was sitting in a meeting.

Is that ODD or is that GOD ???

I know for me – God exists.

I’ve made space for him in my life.

And that took almost twelve years of sobriety to realize.

And I think I will end on that note.

Goodnight.

More to come, stay tuned …


Date set for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII sainthood

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Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be declared saints on 27 April 2014, Pope Francis has announced.

The Pope said in July that he would canonise his two predecessors, after approving a second miracle attributed to John Paul.

Polish John Paul, the first non-Italian pope for more than 400 years, led the Catholic Church from 1978-2005.

Pope John was pontiff from 1958-1963, calling the Second Vatican Council that transformed the Church.

The decision to canonise the two at the same time appears designed to unify Catholics, correspondents say.

John Paul II is a favourite of conservative Catholics, while John XXIII is widely admired by the Church’s progressive wing.

Adam Easton BBC News, Warsaw

John Paul II’s life and teachings have had an enormous impact in Poland, his homeland.

The number of young Polish men training to become priests rose by about a third after his election in 1978, peaking in the mid-1980s.

Polish Catholic Church leaders will be hoping his canonisation will have a similar effect.

The number of Polish seminarians – while still much higher than in the rest of Europe – has been declining steadily since his death in 2005.

‘The good pope’

John Paul stood out for his media-friendly, globetrotting style. He was a fierce critic of communism, and is credited with helping inspire opposition to communist rule in eastern Europe.

John Paul has been on a fast track to sainthood since his death, when crowds in St Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito” (“sainthood now”).

During his own papacy he simplified the process by which people are made saints, and created more of them than all previous popes combined.

John XXIII is remembered for introducing the vernacular to replace Latin in church masses and for creating warmer ties between the Catholic Church and the Jewish faith.

He has a big following in Italy, where he is known as Il Papa Buono, the good pope.

The BBC’s David Willey reports from Rome that Pope John was in many ways similar to Pope Francis, a humble, down-to-earth man with a fine sense of humour.

Two living popes are expected to be present at the canonisation ceremony: Francis, who will officiate, and Pope Benedict, who retired earlier this year.

The double canonisation will be the first in the Church’s history.

Miracles

Two miracles have been officially attributed to Pope John Paul II – the number usually needed for canonisation.

The first miracle was the apparent curing of a 49-year-old French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand. She had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, the same malady which afflicted the pope himself in his later years.

The second miracle came on the day of John Paul II’s beatification by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. A Costa Rican woman reportedly made an “inexplicable recovery” from a serious brain illness, and the only explanation was believed to be the fact that her family had prayed for John Paul II’s intercession.

Pope John XXIII was beatified by John Paul II in 2000, and Pope Francis took the unusual step of waiving the requirement of a second miracle in his case.


Vatican: 2 living popes may honour 2 dead ones at April canonization for John Paul, John XXIII

 

the 2 popes

VATICAN CITY – Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be declared saints on April 27 at a ceremony that might see two living popes honouring two dead ones.

The Vatican on Monday said retired Pope Benedict XVI might join Pope Francis in the saint-making ceremony for their predecessors, noting that there was no reason why Benedict should have to watch the ceremony on TV.

“There’s no reason — either doctrinal or institutional — that he couldn’t participate in a public ceremony,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. “I don’t have any reason to exclude it.”

He noted there was still time before the ceremony and that Benedict was free to decide what to do.

Benedict, who became the first pope in 600 years to retire when he stepped down in February, had said he would spend his final days “hidden from the world” in the Vatican monastery.

But he has taken on a more public profile recently, writing a letter to an Italian atheist that was published last week in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper and appearing with Francis over the summer at a ceremony to unveil a Vatican statue.

Francis had announced in July he would canonize two of the 20th century’s most influential popes together, approving a miracle attributed to John Paul’s intercession and bending Vatican rules by deciding that John XXIII didn’t need a second one to be canonized.

Analysts have said the decision to canonize them together was aimed at unifying the church, since each pope has his admirers and critics. Francis is clearly a fan of both: On the anniversary of John Paul’s death this year, Francis prayed at the tombs of both men — an indication that he sees a great personal and spiritual continuity in them.

Both popes are also closely identified with the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-65 meetings that brought the Catholic Church into modern times, an indication that Francis clearly wants to make a statement about the council’s role in shaping the church today.

A spokesman for Poland’s bishops’ conference, the Rev. Jozef Kloch, said the dual canonizations would stress the fact that John Paul II continued the ideas introduced by John XXIII, who called Vatican II.

Originally, the canonization was expected to have taken place Dec. 8. But Polish bishops complained that a December date would make it difficult for Polish pilgrims to come to the Vatican by bus along snowy, icy roads. As a result, the first Sunday after Easter was chosen instead — a feast day established by John Paul himself.

It was on that same feast day — Divine Mercy Sunday — that John Paul was beatified in 2011, drawing 1.5 million pilgrims to Rome.

John Paul made Jorge Mario Bergoglio — the current Pope Francis — a cardinal. Francis’ immense popular appeal has also been likened to that of John XXIII, dubbed the “good pope.”

___

Monika Scislowska contributed from Warsaw.


Pope warns church must find balance between rules and mercy, focus less on abortion, gays

Pope Francis buda mendes Getty

By Nicole Winfield And Rachel Zoll, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press

VATICAN CITY – Signalling a dramatic shift in Vatican tone, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church had become obsessed by “small-minded rules” about how to be faithful and that pastors should instead emphasize compassion over condemnation when discussing divisive social issues of abortion, gays and contraception.

The pope’s remarkably blunt message six months into his papacy was sure to reverberate in the U.S. and around the globe as bishops who have focused much of their preaching on such hot-button issues are asked to act more as pastors of wounded souls.

In interviews published Thursday in Jesuit journals in 16 countries, Francis said he had been “reprimanded” for not pressing church opposition to abortion in his papacy. But he said “it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” Francis said.

“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel,” the pope said in the 12,000-word article, based on interviews conducted by a fellow Jesuit, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, a Rome journal for the religious order.

“The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” Francis said. “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

The comments contained no change in church teaching, and the pope said reform should not happen quickly. Still, it was the pope’s clearest declaration yet of a break in tone and style from his immediate predecessors.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI were both intellectuals for whom doctrine was paramount, an orientation that guided the selection of a generation of bishops and cardinals who now face making a dramatic turnabout in how they preach.

The interviews were conducted by Spadaro over three days in August at the Vatican hotel where Francis has chosen to live rather than in the papal apartments. The Vatican vets all content in Civilta Cattolica, and the pope approved the Italian version of the article, which America magazine, the Jesuit journal in the U.S., translated into English.

The admonition will especially resonate in the United States, where some bishops have already publicly voiced dismay that Francis hasn’t hammered home church teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality — areas of the culture wars where U.S. bishops often put themselves on the front lines. U.S. bishops were behind Benedict’s crackdown on American nuns, who were accused of letting doctrine take a backseat to their social justice work caring for the poor — precisely the priority that Francis is endorsing.

“I think what Francis is doing when he’s talking about these hot-button issues, he’s not saying one side is right or the other side is right. He’s saying that arguing over these things gets in the way of the work that Catholics are supposed to be doing,” said David Cloutier, a theologian at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.

“This suggests a really different vision of what the church should look like in the world. It’s not a defensive vision. He comes out and forthrightly says we don’t have to talk about these issues all the time. I can’t help but see this as a potential rebuke to American leaders who have focused on these issues.”

Just last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., said in an interview with his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed” that Francis hadn’t addressed abortion since being elected. But Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said Francis’ comments on abortion do not indicate any change in the church’s commitment to the issue.

“Pope Francis is reminding us that when we discuss the issue of abortion, we are not talking about some abstract issue or procedure. Rather, we’re talking about situations that involve mothers and their unborn children, and we must be mindful to help them both — something the right-to-life movement works to do every day,” Tobias said.

Two months ago, Francis caused a sensation during a news conference when he was asked about gay priests. “Who am I to judge?” about the sexual orientation of priests, as long as they are searching for God and have good will, he responded.

Francis noted in the latest interview that he had merely repeated Catholic doctrine during that news conference — though he again neglected to repeat church teaching that says while homosexuals should be treated with dignity and respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

But he continued: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?'”

“We must always consider the person. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic outreach to gays and lesbians that has been rebuked in the past by church leaders who accused ministry leaders of straying from church teaching, called Francis’ comments “a new dawn.” Equally Blessed, an advocacy group for gay and lesbian Catholics, likened Francis’ remarks to “rain on a parched land.”

“Catholic progressives are wondering if we’re dreaming and going to wake up soon,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group in Washington. “It’s a new day.”

The interview also showed a very human Francis. He seemingly had no qualms about acknowledging that his tenure as superior of Argentina’s Jesuit order in the 1970s — starting at the “crazy” age of 36 — was difficult because of his “authoritarian” temperament.

“I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems,” he said.

The key, he said, is for the church to not exclude.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people. We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity,” he said.

___

Religion Writer Rachel Zoll reported from New York.

The interview can be found in the original Italian at La Civiltà Cattolica: http://www.laciviltacattolica.it , in English at America Magazine: http://www.americamagazine.org , and Spanish at Mensaje: http://www.mensaje.cl .


Pope Francis in a Selfie …

Pope Francis in a selfie photo

@Pontifex and the #Sabbath Selfies

John McCarthy  |  Aug. 29, 2013 National Catholic Reporter

 

Oxford University Press announced that the word “selfie” has been added to the online dictionary of the English language. In case you were wondering, selfie (plural is, of course, “selfies”) is defined as: “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” I bet at this point, you’re asking, “Why does this matter for the church?”

The Holy Father posed for a selfie with a group of young people visiting the Vatican. You can see that photo here.  Selfies are the new rage, and everyone is posing for them. Chelsea Clinton took one; Bret Michaels, Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s hair, too. P. Diddy and the Mona Lisa do a pose here (that’s my personal favorite).

Now last time I wrote about popular culture and the church (What Catholics can Learn from Shark Week), some people thought the idea was silly. However, I’m going to give it another try.

Think about this: It would have been very easy for the Holy Father to turn these young people down. He could have just as easily suggested that they pose for a formal photo taken by a Vatican photographer. Instead, he embraced the silliness of the opportunity and posed for a photo with the visitors (as a result, making their lives complete).

Catholics around the world can take away an important lesson here: Engage the culture.

At World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said, “The results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love … At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people.”

When I read that statement, it really hit me. Why aren’t we talking more about the “creativity of love”? Why is it that every day, we fail to ask ourselves, “How can I bring love into the lives of others?” I happen to think it’s because there is growing sentiment that the world is scary, unsafe and unworthy of our faith. Our biggest barrier is this prevailing sense that we must “protect the church” from some outside, unnamed impeding force.

We make long theologically correct statements about why we can’t do something or who can be called Catholic versus who cannot. This is not to say that certain moments do not call for seriousness, but we need to learn how to take a joke every now and then. People are viewing the church as an exclusive, cold, barred-off entity. How can we let people in if the walls are so high? The “creativity of love” must begin with meeting people where they are, and joining them on life’s journey.

So take out your phones and tweet about going to church. Maybe download a Catholic iPhone app, or suggest to your friends that they read a Catholic blog (shameless plug). Moral of the story: Let’s take a step back and remember our simplicity — and pose for a selfie.